Ageism in the job interview and hiring process affects most candidates after the age of 50. Why do employers exhibit ageism? Do they just dislike people over the age of 50? No, it has little or nothing to do with a personal dislike of older people. It has everything to do with the four reasons for ageism potentially going through an employer’s head when interviewing an older worker.
ageism Reason #1. How long to retirement?
The first reason for ageism is every employer likes to believe their new hire will work there for 20 years or more. Of course, they are deluding themselves and ignoring all of the HR surveys. The average tenure for any employee is less than 3 years.
The employer wants to know how much longer you will work before you retire. The employer wants to hire the position once and not have to replace the position a short time later. They aren’t allowed to ask the question without incurring the risk of a discrimination complaint. However, the thought is still in their heads.
How to Overcome
Don’t put an expiration date on yourself. Avoid saying things such as, “I want to work another 2-3 years. This area is a great place to retire.”
Instead, say something like, “I love what I do. I plan to keep doing it for many years to come because I’m good at it and it keeps me going.” Proactively talk about your long-term plans during the interview so their unspoken question is positively answered by you.
ageism Reason #2. Energy Level and Health
The second reason for ageism is that employers worry that an older employee will not have the energy level to put in the long hours required. Similarly, they wonder if the older candidate will have serious health issues that will take them away from the job or cost them more on their health insurance. This concern is often visibly reinforced if the candidate looks tired, moves slowly or shows signs of pain and discomfort during the interview.
How to Overcome
The employer can’t ask about the candidate’s health for legal reasons. They might ask about hobbies and interests. Other ways to ask is to inquire about recent examples of big projects that needed to be completed on a deadline that required extra hours. Most older candidates try to avoid the subject and instead focus on their experience. Just because the topic doesn’t come up directly in the interview does not mean the interviewer wasn’t thinking about it.
Instead, proactively discuss how you keep yourself healthy and fit. Talk about the active things you do on a regular basis. Mention how your activity level usually exceeds people 10 years your junior. Don’t avoid the subject. Address their concerns head on so you can effectively pivot back to your strength.
ageism reason #3. Change and Staying Current
Too many candidates over the age of 50 make comments in interviews that show a resistance to change. This is the third reason for ageism. Companies need leaders who are not only agile and adaptable but also proactive agents of change. The pace of change in the market today is far more rapid than ever. Those leaders who can’t help their organizations change with or ahead of the curve will lead the company to obsolescence.
Employers will ask every candidate about their skills. They want to know if your skills are current and if you have stayed on top of the many changes in the industry. If your skills all focus on things that were the standard 10-20 years ago it does not bode well.
How to Overcome
The key, again, is to be proactive. Talk about what you do keep yourself current. Discuss your work on leading the previous organizations through big changes. Look forward into the future to predict how the market is changing and what will need to be done to stay ahead of the curve. Paint yourself as someone who embraces change and has always been identified as an agent of change.
ageism reason #4. The Multi-Generational Workforce
In some companies, there are five different generations working together. Employers need talent and benefit from the diversity of their workforce. Some older professionals have a hard time relating to younger generations. This can lead to conflict in the workplace and dysfunction within teams. Candidates who make comments in interviews about the perceived work ethic of employees from a younger generation will sound like a curmudgeon who might cause discord in the office. While it can be a tricky question for an interviewer to bring up, the thoughts are still going through their mind. This is the fourth reason for ageism.
How to Overcome
Talk about it. Proactively introduce how you enjoy working with much younger people. You learn from them and grow from their knowledge of the newest things happening in society. You feed off their energy. Also, bring up how your knowledge and experience can help them grow. Mentorship is valuable in so many ways. You enjoy helping channel their energy and excitement in a way that helps them be more productive. The mistakes you’ve made and the knowledge gained from them will help them avoid making the same mistakes.
Ageism is a real thing. It’s not that employers dislike older people. But they are people, full of predictable biases. We help clients overcome these very real issues. You have to proactively convince the employer you aren’t planning to retire soon. They want to recoup their investment. Demonstrating vibrancy and energy is also important. If you look and act tired they will worry that you might not be able to keep the pace. Embrace change and convince them you are an agent of change and stay up with the latest innovations.
Above all, turn your accumulated years into a powerful advantage. You’ve already learned valuable and hard lessons that won’t have to be relearned on their nickel.
ABOUT ENDEAVOR AGENCY, INC.
Endeavor Agency, Inc. is the nation’s leading agency helping individual executives, professionals and physicians find the jobs they truly want. The combination of additional resources, expertise and manpower helps Endeavor clients uncover more and better job opportunities than what they could access on their own.
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